Antrim football manager Liam Bradley has described the annual emigration of players to America every summer as “a cancer” in Gaelic Games.
“This thing of fellas heading off to play for dollars once their teams have been knocked out of the provincial championship — it's become a cancer in the game,” said Bradley.
“The GAA has got to tighten up the rules because it is usually the weaker counties that are most affected by it and that is only making things harder for us.”
The phenomenon has been marked this summer, leaving several counties without key players in the qualifiers.
Bradley said Antrim's ability to hold on to all their players played a big part in their giant-killing act against Galway, but insisted that the one-point victory didn't surprise him.
“We probably have our goalkeeper (Chris Kerr) to thank for one or two great saves and we got that bit of luck you need sometimes but we always believed we had a great chance,” he said.
“People forget that we played Division 2 football last season when we took Meath's scalp.”
Antrim have had an interesting back door odyssey this summer.
Their first-round clash with London came less than 24 hours after star player Tomas McCann got married. Ten of the team attended his nuptials yet all, including McCann, lined out for the county in Ruislip next day.
“That is some reflection of the character of the man,” Bradley said. “Tomas got married on Friday, we played London the following day and had to get an early flight over that morning, which wasn't ideal.
“Once we got through there we let him off for a week's holiday (technically McCann's honeymoon) but he was back training with us last Monday and that's the kind of man he is,” said Bradley of Sunday's top-scorer.
Yesterday's qualifier draw has pitted Antrim against Tipperary next weekend, a team with whom they have plenty of history and who have lost two players — Brian Grogan and Brian Jones — to America since their loss to Kerry in Munster.
“We beat Tipp by a goal in the league this year, but they have
since changed managers (Peter Creedon has taken over from John Evans) and playing them in Semple in the championship is very different from going down there during the league,” said Bradley.
“They took a big scalp by beating Wexford last weekend and have already beaten Offaly so they'll have plenty of momentum.”
Notable in Antrim's latest success was the absence of Paddy Cunningham — but Bradley would not elaborate except to say that Cunningham is “no longer a member of our panel.”